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Families and friends of sailors serving on board HMS St Albans and HMS Edinburgh gathered at Portsmouth Naval Base on Friday, 2 December, to greet their loved ones returning from overseas deployments.
HMS St Albans, a Type 23 frigate, returned from a six-month deployment to the Middle East where she spent much of her time policing busy shipping lanes and providing security for the region alongside other coalition forces.
During her time in the Gulf she took part in a number of multinational exercises with other navies from the Gulf States to further strengthen national ties within the region and protect British interests in an invaluable region for British commerce.
HMS St Albans’ Commanding Officer, Commander Tom Sharpe, said:
What this deployment lacked in glamour it has made up for in sustained productivity, grit and influence. The ship has been quietly operating in the Gulf area, reassuring, deterring, exercising, and generally doing all the diplomacy activities that the Royal Navy has contributed to the region for many years.
However, maintaining the focus and skills required to swing immediately to the other end of the scale was the challenge of the trip and I am proud of the way my ship’s company achieved this through the heat of the Arabian summer.
In contrast to the heat of the Gulf, Type 42 destroyer HMS Edinburgh came home from cooler climates following a six-month deployment to the South Atlantic. Her first deployment after emerging from a £17.5m refit, HMS Edinburgh began her tour in Lisbon, Portugal, reinforcing the strong relations held with the Portuguese Government.
From there, she stopped in the Cape Verde Islands and the island of San Vicente before the ‘Fortress of the Sea’ sailed over the equator and stopped in Angola. This was the first time a Royal Navy vessel had visited the country for over a decade with the aim of forming a lasting relationship and strengthening political and diplomatic ties.
Six days later, HMS Edinburgh arrived in Cape Town to act as host for a very successful Defence and Security Industry Day following an official reception for industry and local dignitaries on board the previous evening.
On sailing, HMS Edinburgh took part in an air defence exercise with the South African Air Force, testing the ship’s air defence teams and upper deck weapons crews against their new Saab Gripen fighter. She then sailed to the South Atlantic, and after six weeks on patrol the ship again headed east, arriving under a 21-gun salute at Simon’s Town, the principal naval base of the South African Navy.
HMS Edinburgh’s Lynx helicopter and her crew also took the opportunity to fly to the South African Air Force (SAAF) base of Ysterplaat to practise low-level flying, formation flying, mountain flying and confined area landings with the SAAF Super Lynx.
In South America, the ship transited through the Patagonian Channels and the Panama Canal into the Caribbean. Following a two-day fuel stop at Balboa, Republic of Panama, the ship hosted Her Majesty’s Ambassador and other distinguished and key personnel for a lunch party followed by a personal tour to reaffirm lasting relationships. From there HMS Edinburgh then took part in counter-narcotic operations before heading home to the UK.
Commanding Officer of HMS Edinburgh, Commander Paul Russell, said:
During our Atlantic deployment, Edinburgh’s footprint spanned over four continents in temperatures ranging from minus 19 to 32 degrees Celsius.
From defence diplomacy along the West African coast to exercises in the Pacific, from the Antarctic to drug-busting operations in the Caribbean, the ship and her crew have demonstrated the versatility and agility that typifies the modern Royal Navy.
With HMS Edinburgh approaching 30 years of service to the nation, it has been a privilege to be in command of such a ‘can-do’ group of sailors.
I would like to thank each and every member of the ship’s company who has served on board during my time as the Captain. I am wholly indebted to them for their unrivalled professionalism which has allowed HMS Edinburgh to be so successful around the globe.
Of course this would not have been possible without the constant support of our families and friends and I am truly grateful for all of the unseen personal sacrifices that they have made during the six months that their loved ones have been away.